When Neil Adams left his post as Norwich City manager back in 2015, few anticipated he’d return to the football club, particularly in a role that was so integral to the current approach in NR1.
Yet, sat in front of him at the club’s Colney training centre yesterday, there was a man who still fully understands the demands of the supporters and possesses an incredible knowledge on the game. His experiences have shaped a figure relied upon for advice and new strategies to push the football club in a fresh direction.
Upon arriving at Colney, Adams was sat with Sporting Director Stuart Webber, with the latter guessing one of the formers infamously taxing football quiz questions. That may seem a minor point but it offered an intriguing insight in their working relationship – one underpinned by trust and mutual respect.
From BBC Radio Norfolk summariser to being thrust into the hot seat, tasked firstly with ensuring the club survived in the Premier League proceeded by being the man selected to ensure they returned there, Adams has been here through the highs and lows.
Now he is the man trusted with strategically plotting a pathway for the Canaries hottest prospects. As a pivotal cog in the Norwich City machine, Adams ensures the academy connects with the first-team alongside playing a part in the recruitment of other players and devising a new programme for the Under-23s and Under-18s.
There can be no underestimating how significant his presence is.
In this role, he constructs the loan system, builds up contacts globally and evolves the attitudes of players being sent out of the club. He has watched only six City first-team this season, which reiterates how vital he is to the loan players. He isn’t just somebody to impress, but someone to communicate with throughout their spell away.
Football is the focus, naturally, but player welfare is also high up the agenda.
He’s come a long way from his creation of Canary Call and his influence on what we’re seeing now should not be underestimated. Those major figures this season, Todd Cantwell and Ben Godfrey? He was instrumental in creating a pathway geared up to getting them into the first-team.
He coached and loaned out the Murphy twins and along the way happened to be impressed by a then certain Coventry City attacking midfielder. The club went on to make significant profits on those three players, sums that have undoubtedly aided this campaign as they adjust to life without parachute payments.
Adams’ name will never reach the headlines, but it is his relentless work and clever use of the loan system that has led to the glowing success of the academy in recent seasons.
Adams on his role…
‘I completely oversee the loans programme at the football club that was introduced over four years ago.
‘I devised it, shaped it, created it and hopefully improved it year on year. Daniel [Farke] and Stuart [Webber] send me a player they want to get out on loan, and there may be a number of reasons for that. One of those is to get a younger player senior football and experience or get players a career who may not be good enough for us.
‘I go through every stage of that, from finding them the clubs, negotiating the contracts and finances with clubs to then monitoring the players as closely as we possibly can. We watch the players training, speak to the manager, coaches and players, watching the games.
‘Every player that goes out on loan is monitored just as much, if not more, than when they are here. That sounds crazy, but we take the sports science data as well as talking to the players more than when they are here, arguably.
‘We’ve got a mentality and an environment at the club now, where previously players would think going out on loan meant it was them out of the door. It’s almost flipped now to the point where the success stories we’ve had like the Murphy twins, James Maddison, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell, player now see those and think it’s a great opportunity to get into our first team.
‘You either go straight into the team like Max [Aarons] and Jamal [Lewis] have done or you go out on loan and into the team. Players now know there is a reason for this.
‘Those at the top of the tree at clubs need to believe in certain things. Stuart and Daniel are believers in players going out on loan. The sooner you get players exposure to senior football the better.’
Adams on the FA Youth Cup Success of 2013
‘It was fantastic. That’s how much the supporters buy into this club. To have 22,000 at Carrow Road is unheard of in youth football. They filled the stadium – it was amazing.
‘Out of that team, only two haven’t gone on to have professional careers. At varying levels, of course, some are in the Premier League and others are in the Football League.
‘That’s what this football club should be about, we believe. Giving young players the opportunity to make a name for themselves here rather than elsewhere. Whether the Under 23s are successful or not, it’s about what we can get from it. If they don’t win the league, not a problem. Ultimately, the first-team is what we strive for and live and die by.
‘If we get one player from the Under 23’s [into the first-team] but they don’t win a game, job done.
‘Chelsea had players that they’d spent millions on and that were on fortunes in wages. Our lot were on £150 each!
‘You organise them, get them right for the game and do your homework on the opposition. We proved what can be done but again, even though it was fantastic to win the FA Youth Cup, we were all thinking, what could this mean for the first-team?
‘The club has to make its own money; pleasingly, there was a bit of success out of that team. The Murphy twins were sold for millions but also played for us.’
Adams on his spell in management…
‘It was a fantastic experience. Obviously, in the last five games of the Premier League of the season, I’d have picked easier opposition! It would have been nice to have had three or four more games if that would have happened, then who’d of known what we could have done.
‘You can’t help but learn immensely by the exposure to that and the challenges you face.
‘Twelve months after winning the FA Youth Cup at Stamford Bridge, I was stood next to Jose Mourinho in a Premier League game.
‘When you’re the manager, everybody needs a yes or a no. They all come to you. Obviously, the workload is incredible, although it’s slightly different now because of the structural changes at clubs. It’s a fantastic model in my opinion. Daniel can focus on the coaching and Stuart can focus on the other stuff.
‘It was an incredible experience and one I certainly enjoyed and had a bit of success with. Some of the performances and attacking football, which will always be one of my mantras, people enjoyed watching.’
Adams on Canary Call…
‘I did enjoy it.
‘There were three or four calls out of 10,000 that you wouldn’t want, “Barry” being the main one. He actually rang up afterwards and we had a good laugh about it. It was great.
‘It was something I suggested to the BBC. I said ‘you have to get people calling in like they do in the pub after the game’. It was probably the worst suggestion I ever made! It was good fun and I really enjoyed being a part of it.
‘I genuinely didn’t know [what was going on in training], I was being honest!’
These are just a few excerpts from our chat with Norwich City loan Manager Neil Adams. A huge thank you, as ever, to the media team for allowing us to speak to Neil. The interview is available in its entirety on MyFootballWriter’s Soundcloud and YouTube channels. For SoundCloud please click here and YouTube here.
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